Derry City held on to record a sixth consecutive win when they beat Shamrock Rovers 2-1 at the Brandywell on Friday evening.
It was the first time in almost two years that the Candy Stripes beat the Dublin side in the Foyleside venue and with league leaders Sligo Rovers losing to St. Patrick’s Athletic, Declan Devine’s men are within two points of the top spot.
Derry took the lead seven minutes after half-time when Barry McNamee found the back of the net and central defender Ryan McBride netted his third of the season when he put the ball past Barry Murphy with 11 minutes remaining.
Stephen Rice scored with a long range drive in the 90th minute but the Candy Stripes remained steadfast and emerged with an invaluable three points.
Speaking to the Sunday Journal after the game, Devine refused to get carried away with the fact Sligo had lost their first league fixture of 2013 and stated that he has tremendous belief in his players.
“I’m not overly concerned about Sligo Rovers,” said Devine.
“I wasn’t concerned when they were winning and I’m not concerned when they’re losing. We have to concentrate on ourselves.
“It’s a very pleasing win. We’ve played terrifically well this season, passed the ball well and for me Shamrock Rovers came here with a game-plan to bully us. They played very direct, hoping to force us into mistakes because we are a technical side.
“I think we sent out a clear message to the rest of the league that if people want to mix it up, we’re more than capable of digging in and hitting teams on the counter.”
With Shane McEleney suspended and Stewart Greacen out injured, Devine was forced to slot left-back Dermot McCaffrey into the heart of defence with Ryan McBride.
“They knew that Dermot McCaffrey hadn’t played a game up until now and Shane (McEleney) was missing so they kept putting long balls in and everybody stood up to what was a very physical match,” he said.
“We have very big characters even for such a young team. I’m delighted with our defending. Shamrock Rovers came here and threw everything they had at us and we were comfortable up until the last few minutes.
“Sometimes what you have to do is dig in and have respect for your opponents and take everything they can throw at you.”
Devine hinted that his players have learned from their mistakes in seasons gone by and said that despite the youthfulness of his side he continues to be impressed with their displays of character and maturity.
“I think in years gone by we would’ve lost that game. We would’ve been a bit naïve in our defending. But we stood up and we were fantastic. It’s a huge win.
“If you go through the team, the youthfulness of this team, we have players like Madden, McBride, Crawley, McEleney, Barry McNamee and Rafter.
“There are so many young players but they certainly earned a lot of respect from me in terms of their work and effort which has matched all their technical ability that they’ve shown over previous weeks.”
Devine went on to question some of the decisions taken by Dublin referee Derek Tomney by describing them as “strange”.
“We got much less of the percentage of free-kicks than what Rovers did,” he claimed.
“A lot of referees are coming to Brandywell and throwing down a marker to say that they’re not going to be intimidated by the crowd and I have nothing against that but I think there was a couple of strange decisions.”
Next up for Derry City is St. Patrick’s Athletic at Richmond Park next Friday (April 26); kick-off 7.45pm